Analysis from Washington
→ The Carolina Hurricanes could not put a stop to the Washington Capitals point streak, which is now at 14 games, as they were defeated by a 6-1 margin. Jordan Staal's power-play tally was the Hurricanes' lone goal.
"They did all the right things. They were at the net hard, created a lot of net-front and made it hard on the goalie, all those things that we want to do," Staal said. "They found a way to get a few goals there, and it was kind of tough to move forward after that."
Video: CAR Recap: 'Canes can't build on early goal in loss
→ After winning four straight games and working their way firmly into the Eastern Conference playoff picture, the Hurricanes have lost four straight games and earned zero of eight possible points - all games against elite divisional opponents, too. In terms of quality of opponent, there's no question this was one of the toughest segments of the season.
"It's three of the top teams in the league," Ron Hainsey said. "It was going to be a challenge with three of them on the road. There are plenty of lessons in there."
And the Hurricanes aren't out of the running by any means, but teams trailing in the standings tightened the gap and teams ahead in the standings created some undesired separation this week that the team is now going to have to work through with a prolonged winning streak.
"It's tight. There's a lot of teams in the mix," Staal said. "We're right there, but we have to start playing some good hockey. I don't think we deserve it if we're playing like we have lately."
"There's a lot of work left to be done," head coach Bill Peters said. "We were playing well heading into it and we've come off it a little bit. Now we've got to get ourselves re-grouped."
→ The Hurricanes jumped out to a 1-0 lead tonight via Staal's third power-play goal of the season. Just six seconds into the man advantage, Elias Lindholm fed Staal, who was parked in the slot, with a great feed, and Staal finished for his 10th tally.
→ From there, Washington pulled away with six unanswered goals.
Dmitry Orlov scored two of those four goals, including the tally that tied the game at one at the 11:49 mark of the first period. Orlov's shot from the top of the near circle - where Alex Ovechkin sets up camp on the power play - bounced off Staal's defending stick, as the two teams traded power-play goals.
"They had a quick faceoff play there. We were 100 percent ready for it. I was kind of just trying to get out of the way, and it hit my stick," Staal said. "99 percent of the time it would either miss the net or be a flubber, and it went top corner, so it was an unfortunate play."
The Caps took a 2-1 lead in the last three minutes of the period, when Justin Williams' floater from the point couldn't be tracked through a screen and beat Cam Ward.
"They got to our net. They were at our net and made it hard on us," Peters said. "I don't think we did a good enough job boxing out down low. They were able to capitalize."
For those two goals, though, Ward countered with two phenomenal saves to prevent the game from getting out of hand early. The first save was on Ovechkin when the Canes still had the 1-0 lead, as he exploded over to the left side and then located the puck to get the whistle. Late in the frame, Andre Burakovsky was gift-wrapped the puck in the slot, and Ward's glove was positioned perfectly to make the save.
A blast from the point off the stick of Orlov in the second period put the Caps up 3-1, and Evegeny Kuznetsov made it 4-1 when he located his own rebound and scored with just 80 seconds left in the second period. T.J. Oshie and Lars Eller stretched the Caps' lead with third-period goals.
"There wasn't a lot of really grade-A chances either way. They had some traffic on some shots that snuck through," Hainsey said. "They're playing so well that once you get to 3-1 or 4-1, you're going to have to start taking some chances … to catch up. Obviously we were not able to do that."
→ One game separates the Hurricanes from the All-Star break. The Los Angeles Kings make their lone visit of the season to Raleigh on Thursday night before defenseman Justin Faulk makes his way to Hollywood for the league's annual weekend festivities.
"It's huge," Peters said. "You want to go into the All-Star break with a good taste in our mouth and be able to enjoy it, come back and reset."
"We've got to get off the pine here and get moving forward," Staal said. "We've played a lot of good teams. We played well in Columbus but didn't get the result. The other games, we haven't had enough. We've got to find a way to dig deep and give it a strong effort for the last game before the All-Star break."